Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., officially announced his 2024 presidential campaign to take on former President Donald Trump and, potentially, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, but it was President Joe Biden's weakness and damage to America that brought Scott into the race.
"I am living proof that America is the land of opportunity, not a land of oppression," Scott said Monday in a North Charleston, South Carolina, campaign declaration at Charleston Southern University, his alma mater. "This isn't just my story. It's all of our stories."
Scott hailed the American dream "where obstacles became opportunities."
"Joe Biden and the radical left are attacking every rung of the ladder that helped me climb," he continued. "And that is why I am announcing today that I am running for president of the United States of America.
"They're attacking our American values; our schools; our economy; our security. But not on my watch. That will not work. ... I cannot stand by while this is done to America. She's done too much for me."
Scott, the only Black Republican senator, made it official last week with the Federal Election Commission. He had requested a 90-day extension to get his personal financial disclosures before the Senate.
Scott's speech struck a contrast to Trump, who has denounced a "nation in decline" in rally speeches, framing it as a "nation in retreat" under Biden.
"America is not a nation in decline," Scott said as his mic went out, "but under Joe Biden, we have become a nation in retreat — retreating from our heritage and our history, retreating from personal responsibility and hard work, retreating from strength and security, even retreating from religious liberty and the worship of God himself.
"They say opportunity in America is a myth and faith in America is a fraud, but the truth of my life disproves their lies.
"The good news is all we need to do is turn around."
Scott ticked down the issues of his campaign:
- Secure borders
- Debt and excessive spending
- Being beholden to China
- Global instability
- "Back the blue," supporting law and order and police
- Turning away the culture war and critical race theory.
- Rebuilding "lethal" military to project strength
"We will not try to be the world's police force, but we will always defend our vital national interests and our people," Scott continued. "And we will win the next century by the strength of our economy. China started this new economic Cold War, but America will finish it."
Scott will have a large voice — as he has had for years — on policing, race, CRT, and culture wars waged by the left.
"America cannot be safe or secure if we sink into cultural quicksand here at home," Scott said. "As president, I will rebuild and restore every rung of the ladder that helped me climb, because I want my American story to pale in comparison to your stories.
"As president I will motivate, inspire, and require every able-bodied citizen to take responsibility and go to work.
"We will back the blue, secure our streets, and finally make it a federal crime to kill, ambush, or assault a cop in this country."
Scott will spend Tuesday with donors in Charleston before a whirlwind, two-day campaign swing to Iowa and New Hampshire.
Like others in the GOP race, including former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and "Woke, Inc." author Vivek Ramaswamy, Scott will have to find a way to stand out in a field led by Trump and DeSantis, the latter of whom could announce his own bid as early as this week.
But Scott's senior advisers note that political environments can shift over the course of a primary campaign, pointing to early in the 2016 race when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush were seen as the top GOP candidates before Trump became the party's nominee.
One way Scott, 57, hopes to make his mark, is by leaning into more optimistic rhetoric than his conservative rivals. With his Christian faith an integral part of his political and personal story, Scott often quotes Scripture at his campaign events, weaving his reliance on spiritual guidance into his stump speech and even bestowing the name "faith in America" on his pre-launch listening tour.
In terms of Scott's political strength, his team points to his most recent Senate reelection in November, when Scott defeated his Democrat opponent by more than 20 percentage points. Such overwhelming support in a state that votes early in the GOP's presidential nominating calendar bodes well for Scott's electability on a larger scale, his advisers say.
This is also the matter of money. He will enter the 2024 race with more cash on hand than any other presidential candidate in U.S. history. He had $22 million left in his campaign bank account at the end of his 2022 campaign and plans to immediately transfer that to his presidential coffers.
It is enough money, his team says, to keep Scott on the air with continuous TV ads in early voting states until the first round of votes next year.
On many issues, Scott aligns with mainstream GOP positions. He wants to reduce government spending and restrict abortion, saying he would sign a federal law to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy if elected president.
But Scott has pushed the party on some policing overhaul measures since the killing of George Floyd, and he has occasionally criticized Trump's response to racial tensions. Throughout their disagreements, though, Scott has maintained a generally cordial relationship with Trump, saying in his book that the former president "listened intently" to his viewpoints on race-related issues.
When he was appointed to the Senate by then-Gov. Nikki Haley in 2012, Scott became the first Black senator from the South since just after the Civil War. Winning a 2014 special election to serve out the remainder of his term made him the first Black candidate to win a statewide race in South Carolina since the Reconstruction era.
Scott rejects the notion that the country is inherently racist and has repudiated the teaching of critical race theory, an academic framework that presents the idea that the nation's institutions maintain the dominance of white people.
"That's why I'm the candidate the far left fears the most," Scott said Monday. "When I cut your taxes, they called me a prop. When I re-funded the police, they called me a token. When I pushed back on President Biden, they even called me the N-word.
"I disrupt their narrative. I threaten their control. The truth of my life disrupts their lies. I will proclaim these truths from the highest mountaintop, and I will proclaim these truths from the deepest valley.
"I will take our message to the boardroom, and I will take it to the classroom. I will take it to a gymnasium filled with friends, but I will also take it to an inner-city church with skeptics.
"I have lived the American dream. I have held the truth, the inalienable truth, that all men and women are created equal, and endowed by our creator with the right to be free. Our party and our nation are standing at a time for choosing victimhood or victory?
"Grievance or greatness? I choose freedom and hope and opportunity.
"Will you choose it with me? Will you join me as messengers of hope, as visionaries that believe the strength of our ideas can change our nation again? I will. Let's go. Let's go."
The crowd chanted with him, "Let's go. Tim Scott."
Scott walked down off the stage, continuing to share his message of hope with his revelers.
"We need a president that persuades," he continued.
"We have to have a compassion for people. We have to have a compassion for people that don't agree with us."
Getting back on stage, Scott finished, "I believe that the next American century starts today."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.
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